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Month: March, 2014

on rhyme‏


commenting on his choice of idiom
in Paradise Lost, John Milton writes
the following

“The measure is English heroic verse without rime, as that of Homer in
Greek, and of Virgil in Latin—rime being no necessary adjunct or true
ornament of poem or good verse, in longer works especially, but the
invention of a barbarous age, to set off wretched matter and lame metre;
graced indeed since by the use of some famous modern poets, carried away
by custom, but much to their own vexation, hindrance, and constraint to
express many things otherwise, and for the most part worse, than else they
would have expressed them. Not without cause therefore some both Italian
and Spanish poets of prime note have rejected rime both in longer and
shorter works, as have also long since our best English tragedies, as a thing
of itself, to all judicious ears, trivial and of no true musical delight; which
consists only in apt numbers, fit quantity of syllables, and the sense variously
drawn out from one verse into another, not in the jingling sound of like
endings—a fault avoided by the learned ancients both in poetry and all good
oratory. This neglect then of rime so little is to be taken for a defect, though
it may seem so perhaps to vulgar readers, that it rather is to be esteemed an
example set, the first in English, of ancient liberty recovered to heroic poem
from the troublesome and modern bondage of riming.”

“Paradise Lost”: The Verse

John Milton

_______________

that’s of course his opinion, what do
you think

and what, thus, do you think poetry is,
not an especially easy question

Richard

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“Lohengrin”, Act 1‏

"Lohengrin" - Ernst Fuchs

Lohengrin (1977)

Ernst Fuchs

_______

this morning, requiring especially strong
medicine to get me through my day, I put
on Lohengrin, Wagner’s masterpiece,
directed by the thorny and unpredictable
Werner Herzog, from Bayreuth, the high
temple of that music, its very Acropolis,
1990, to lighten my load, to give me
mythic, maybe even Sisyphean,
perseverance, it didn’t disappoint

Elsa of Brabant is accused by Friedrich
of Telramund of having killed her brother,
who stood before both of them in line to
the throne, Ortrud, Friedrich’s wife, stands
silent throughout the first act looking
positively Machiavellian, Lady,
incontrovertibly, Macbeth

Elsa, summoned to plead her corner, tells
of a shining knight who appears to her in
her dreams, calls upon him to defend her
honour, he shows up at the very last
moment, on no less than a swan

he’ll only fight for her, he says, after she’s
offered him her anticipated kingdom, her
throne, her very honour and chastity, to
do with what he will, should he win for
her her cause, if she’ll pledge to never
ever ask about his origins, despite his
extraordinary entrance

she accedes, of course, though no other
knight, critically, has shown up to redeem
her

the shining knight conquers, of course,
but Ortrud, during the celebrations,
lurking ominously nearby, doesn’t give
the impression that anyone’s going to
live happily ever after, so long as
she can help it

it was the end of Act 1, I got up, made
a sandwich, I’d watch the following act
tomorrow, and so on, until the distant
end of that four-hour saga, to which
the epithet “Wagnerian”, for “epic”,
also, manifestly, belongs

wistfully I wondered about my own
knights in shining armour, who might
be my own guardian angels, entering
on fabled, maybe, even, swans,
concluded one of them had just been
Wagner, who’d turned, from heavy to
at the very least wistful, my day
around

wishing you Wagners

Richard

Beethoven – piano sonata no 7, in D major, opus 10, no 3‏

Euterpe - Apollo and the Muses - Helene Knoop 1979 - Norwegian Figurative painter - Tutt'Art@

EuterpeApollo and the Muses (2008 – 9)

Helene Knoop

________

if the piano sonata no 4 of Beethoven,
in E flat, opus 7, was academic, an
exercise, a display of technical
dexterity and some, admittedly,
even mighty, compositional verve,
it lacked, in my estimation, a centre,
a convincing motivating factor, a muse,
though ever ardent, ever entertaining,
it is ultimately arid, I think, trite, I’m
not, one is not, keen on returning to it

but in the piano sonata no 7, in D major,
opus 10, no 3
, Beethoven hits, I submit,
his stride, this sonata is enchanting

note the similarities of structure
between the two, the order of the
movements with identical, essentially,
tempo patterns, notably the middle
slow movement, in the first a largo,
con gran expressione,
slow with
great expression, in the latter, a
largo e mesta, slow with sadness,
where Beethoven plumbs, evidently,
the limits of pacing, the time lapse
between two notes, the capacity for
silence of this new instrument, the
pianoforte, of which he’ll look into
also, and even vigorously, its
capacity for volume, the crashing
introduction to his celebrated 8th,
for instance, to establish the
instrument’s new perimeters

you’ll note you can listen to the later
largo, the opus 10, no 3, forever, you
can get lost in its aural world, I can’t
think of anywhere else right now a
more profound largo

the other movements are dazzling
in their thrilling prestidigitation, all
organically sound, and, crucially,
motivationally centred, I think, this
is indeed music, magisterial music,
Beethoven’s not just kidding
anymore, he’s hitched onto his
proper inspirational deity, his own
private Euterpe, music’s muse, and
we’re in for something, from here
on, of a ride

note the cool riff closing off the last
movement, Beethoven in the guise
of Gene Kelly stepping in for a
breezy good-bye, prefiguring, of
course, XXth-Century music, and
the serendipitous extrapolations
of jazz

Richard

psst: incidentally, the headings, largo,
con gran expressione, largo e
mesta,
are entirely Romantic
musical notions, notations,
Classical composers would’ve
been too sedate, formal, courtly,
for such flagrant sentiment

Apollo Appleseed

a friend of mine, Apollo, having
appropriated that name already
to launch a, not unpromising,
career as an artist, had never
to date considered a surname
for what I called his nom de
pinceau
, his brush name

but in a farfelu moment, French
for having lost one’s head – my
head, not his, having surrendered
immediately to his fantasy – he’d
happened upon “Appleseed” as
maybe a fitting, and to be
considered, apposition, addition,
to his presently truncated name,
I jumped on it

he later called the phenomenon,
at a loss for provenance, an
inspiration, to which I forthwith
concurred, Apollo Appleseed,
can you dig it, I told him he now
had to live up to it

inspiration is always the source
of poetry, I said, poetry is what
we all live for, to make our lives
beautiful

it involves following our inspirations,
however fanciful, however out there,
people have built lives around art,
literature, dreams, madeleines, for
goodness’ sake, fording oceans,
climbing mountains, and have
become not to be forgotten, it’s the
magic that counts, ever the aim of
inspiration

when inspiration strikes it is ever
charged with possibility, perspicacity,
delight, it is not a negative function

when inspiration strikes it is time
to stand and deliver, it knows the
ineluctable way, the one that’s in
your heart

you too can plant apple trees across
the land, of your own potentialities, if
only you dare follow even one of your
dreams

Richard

psst: you’ll have to forgive my ardour,
it’s been my Johnny Appleseed
speaking

and don’t forget to click

Beethoven – piano sonata no 4, in E flat major, opus 7

though Beethoven’s piano sonata no 4,
in E flat major
, opus 7 has never been
one of my favourites, I’m finding this
particular renderin
g completely
enchanting

the opus 7 is, of course, early, when
you consider Beethoven reached into
the late 130s for his opuses, his opera,
not counting his, as bountiful, WoOs,
works without opus numbers

the sonata is steeped in Classical
conditions that are becoming ossified
at this point, about a decade after the
French Revolution, 1796 – 7, and that
have yet to be culturally overturned,
put to rest, you can hear it, you hear
the Classical form – formality, repetition,
congenial tonalities still – in the sonata,
brilliantly displayed by a composer
of ripe and rich imagination, but at
the service of structure rather than
the music itself, style over substance,
a student’s musical submission for a
composition exam

you’ll hear the repeat of the opening air
in the first movement more times than
you think is necessary, though the tune
be ever jaunty, never unpleasant, just
essentially trite, the second movement,
is a largo, a largo indeed, you’ll think,
about to fall asleep, even, at the wheel,
the later movements keep you
entertained in most interpretations,
not much, however, inspired, music to
pass the time, to check your watch by,
it needs what Beethoven will later
deliver in spades, miracles and
majesty, conviction

the opus 7 is long as well, nearly
interminable, I think, second only in
length to the sublime however
Hammerklavier, the 106, impudent
therefore, to my mind, if not outright
arrogant, in the mode of lesser artists,
Salieri, Clementi, for instance, who
never manage to transcend their,
however impressive, technical
expertise

but in this commanding account
maybe I’ve grown into the piece, or
maybe the performance itself is more
inspired – Joel Schoenhals finds
something that’s had me listen for
hours and hours, rapt, mesmerized

listen

Richard

psst: I needed this sonata for a course
I’m taking at Coursera, an Internet
learning site, on the Beethoven
piano sonatas
, the opus 7 is the
first one we’re looking at, this
performance
was the best one I
could find

join me

“Edward Hopper and the House by the Railroad” (1925) – Edward Hirsch‏

"House by the Railroad" (1925) - Edward Hopper

House by the Railroad (1925)

Edward Hopper

______

Edward Hopper and the House by the Railroad (1925)

Out here in the exact middle of the day,
This strange, gawky house has the expression
Of someone being stared at, someone holding
His breath underwater, hushed and expectant;

This house is ashamed of itself, ashamed
Of its fantastic mansard rooftop
And its pseudo-Gothic porch, ashamed
of its shoulders and large, awkward hands.

But the man behind the easel is relentless.
He is as brutal as sunlight, and believes
The house must have done something horrible
To the people who once lived here

Because now it is so desperately empty,
It must have done something to the sky
Because the sky, too, is utterly vacant
And devoid of meaning. There are no

Trees or shrubs anywhere–the house
Must have done something against the earth.
All that is present is a single pair of tracks
Straightening into the distance. No trains pass.

Now the stranger returns to this place daily
Until the house begins to suspect
That the man, too, is desolate, desolate
And even ashamed. Soon the house starts

To stare frankly at the man. And somehow
The empty white canvas slowly takes on
The expression of someone who is unnerved,
Someone holding his breath underwater.

And then one day the man simply disappears.
He is a last afternoon shadow moving
Across the tracks, making its way
Through the vast, darkening fields.

This man will paint other abandoned mansions,
And faded cafeteria windows, and poorly lettered
Storefronts on the edges of small towns.
Always they will have this same expression,

The utterly naked look of someone
Being stared at, someone American and gawky.
Someone who is about to be left alone
Again, and can no longer stand it.

Edward Hirsch

___________

Edward Hopper seems to have had
a profound influence on American
poets, this is the third poem around
one of his paintings I’ve encountered,
one by Joyce Carol Oates, a great lady
of not only poetry but of letters, having
been prolific in all literary forms, in each
nothing short of exemplary, another by
Brice Maiurro
, a budding poet of the
greatest, to my mind, merit, of whom
we will surely hear more if there is any
poetic justice

you can read about both of them right
here
in my blog, or just click their
individual names above

Edward Hirsch, by the way, stands
no less tall here, I submit, than the
other two in this coveted company

Richard

“Meditations”, Book 5 – Marcus Aurelius

“In the morning when thou risest unwillingly, let this thought be present – I am rising to the work of a human being. Why then am I dissatisfied if I am going to do the things for which I exist and for which I was brought into the world? Or have I been made for this, to lie in the bed-clothes and keep myself warm? – But this is more pleasant. – Dost thou exist then to take thy pleasure, and not at all for action or exertion? Dost thou not see the little plants, the little birds, the ants, the spiders, the bees working together to put in order their several parts of the universe? And art thou unwilling to do the work of a human being, and dost thou not make haste to do that which is according to thy nature? – But it is necessary to take rest also. – It is necessary: however nature has fixed bounds to this too: she has fixed bounds both to eating and drinking, and yet thou goest beyond these bounds, beyond what is sufficient; yet in thy acts it is not so, but thou stoppest short of what thou canst do. So thou lovest not thyself, for if thou didst, thou wouldst love thy nature and her will. But those who love their several arts exhaust themselves in working at them unwashed and without food; but thou valuest thy own own nature less than the turner values the turning art, or the dancer the dancing art, or the lover of money values his money, or the vainglorious man his little glory. And such men, when they have a violent affection to a thing, choose neither to eat nor to sleep rather than to perfect the things which they care for. But are the acts which concern society more vile in thy eyes and less worthy of thy labour?”

Meditations“, Book 5, 1

Marcus Aurelius

___________

though Marcus Aurelius produces
a seemingly logical argument in the
first paragraph of his fifth book of
meditations, his premises are not
air-tight

are we meant to “work”, a notion
already roundly infiltrating Christian
ideology, by the “sweat of its brow”,
as it were, at the time of Marcus
Aurelius, with those roots already in
early Stoicism, with Zeno of Citium,
a good 350 years before Christ

this notion is alive and well, indeed
thriving still, in the Protestant Ethic,
where very salvation is achieved
through labour, a consequence of
the Fall, which is to say, the expulsion
from the Garden of Eden

and Utilitarianism, where effort, which
is to say, work, is required to maximize
happiness, minimize suffering

these are profound pathways based
on faith, not necessarily ineluctable,
Epicureanism, an opposite philosophy,
of savouring the moment, though less
purported, less proclaimed, appears
ever flourishing nevertheless in our
voluptuous 21st Century

Marcus Aurelius brings up another
issue tangentially here, though he
expounds on it in later passages,
that of the primacy of either the
person or the community, a central
question of our times, socialism
versus democracy

he favours community, after Plato,
so, incidentally, does Jesus

these are not easy questions to
answer, what, essentially, are the
conditions required before one
starts to smell the flowers, is
smelling the flowers an abomination
when people are cruelly suffering,
dying

how can I help, should I, and when
do I say no to myself

therefore philosophy

your life, indeed your very next step,
depend on it

cheers

Richard